By means of his gifts the Holy Ghost governs the just and strengthens and sustains them in their spiritual life. It is fitting, therefore, that we should consider these gifts—what they are and how many they are—for it is important that the Christian should have a clear knowledge of this matter. (Extracts from Compendio de la doctrina cristiana, p. i, chap. ii.)
The Gifts of the Holy Ghost
1. Description of them:
The gifts proceed in an orderly fashion and gradually ascend by degrees. From the fear of the Lord the soul rises to the other gifts one after the other, to arrive at the most lofty and excellent of all, which is the gift of wisdom. Fear of the Lord arouses and awakens in us a fear of God; not the servile fear which the apostle calls the spirit of bondage, but a fear proper to the adopted sons of God. Such a fear enables the Christian to venerate his merciful Father with filial reverence, striving conscientiously never to offend him in the slightest way nor to lose his grace and love. St Augustine calls it a chaste fear which is born of charity.
The gift of piety teaches us to honour God with ardent and joyful affection and to love our neighbour with the love of God, even when he is not deserving of our love.
The gift of knowledge implies that we recognize our defects and learn how to live innocently and prudently in this sinful world without ourselves committing sin.
The gift of fortitude enables us to remain strong and constant in Christ, so that neither the pleasures nor the difficulties of this world can separate us in any way from the honour and the service of God. It makes us yearn and thirst for the just life.
The gift of counsel teaches, advises and directs us so that we may diligently put into effect those things which we prudently judge to be most conducive to our salvation and for the greater glory of God.
The gift of understanding discloses to us the true and catholic meaning of divine things.
Through the gift of wisdom, the soul is completely detached from all temporal and earthly things, so that it may enjoy the contemplation of God and experience the most tender consolation and a taste for divine things.
2. Another effect of the gifts:
The gifts of the Holy Ghost also facilitate the operations of the virtues, animating and strengthening them so that they will always be ready for the performance of their proper acts. Faith, hope and charity are perfected by the gifts of wisdom and understanding; prudence by the gifts of knowledge and counsel; justice by the gift of piety; fortitude by the gift of fortitude, and temperance by the fear of the Lord.
3. Effect against evil:
The gifts also help to destroy the seven evil inclinations which the prince of devils arouses in those who live according to the desires of the flesh and the law of sin. Thus the fear of the Lord destroys pride and disposes for true humility . . . the gift of piety which makes us desire the good of our neighbour with a joyful heart, replaces envy. . . . The gift of knowledge represses anger . . . the gift of fortitude dissipates the spirit of sloth and spiritual sadness, and rids the soul of its morbid boredom . . . the gift of counsel uproots avarice, because he who is instructed by this gift readily selects what is better. He enriches his soul with spiritual goods and lays up treasures in heaven, where they can never be lost. . . . The gift of understanding destroys gluttony, which enslaves those who give themselves to this vice. . . . The gift of wisdom destroys lust, for they who possess the spirit of wisdom delight in God and abhor the pleasures of carnal men, who are like beasts. . . .
Let us therefore beg God our Father to grant us these seven gifts through the merits of his Son, Jesus Christ, saying with the Psalmist: Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Cast me not away from thy face and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.